“We needed a name. We did this surgically in a sense that it was me and Sam. Jello came down for a weekend but otherwise it was two of us hashing out ideas. So it was surgical. The first half of the record was so fast. I did the guitar and bass on it and had stiff little fingers playing meth music to keep up with the kids. And the drums were machines because Sammy did all the programming. So, Surgical Meth Machine. And it is funny because now I am doing more press on this than Ministry, Revco and Lard combined! It’s pretty gross.” -Al Jourgensen.
Surgical Meth Machine is the latest brain boggler from industrial legend Al Jourgensen. It is pretty much down to Al and Keef Richards in the rock n roll unkillable deadpool at this point, but Al shows no signs of releasing anything less than crazy before the apocalypse (or being in a Disney movie). SMM is a rollercoaster of a weird record that has some of his most unhinged, white knuckle/teeth gnashing machine thrash in years but gets increasingly through the looking glass and trippy as the record eggs you on into a black hole.
The album was crafted off-and-on over a period of 12 months, mostly in the
Cuban-American singer and multi-instrumentalist’s Burbank, California studio
with longtime engineer Sam D’Ambruoso.
So, first time I interviewed Al years ago he told me I should make a necklace out of my vas deferens and about how doctors lost his toe once and teaching his dog to be a designated driver.It was awesome to talk AGAIN to Al today and pick his brain about medical marijuana, the algorithms of the apocalypse, politics and this awesome new record from Nuclear Blast.
This record is a blast. Are you in California now?
AJ: Yep. Living in L.A.-L.A.-land. It’s good. I’ve lived here before. I know
the terrain. It seems to fit me. I’m healthy, not quite wealthy but wise. So I
guess I’ve got two out’ve the three.
Yeah, and you’ve been really productive. Last time I saw live was the NY show
when Mikey was still alive. Maybe a week or two before you had an onstage
health scare. But then you got really busy with all these other recordings.
From Beer To Eternity and this record, they really have variety. I was reading
a Chuck D interview from Public Enemy today and he was saying a lot of artists
get stuck on one period of their career and try to remake that same album.
You’ve never really had that problem.
AJ: Yeah, I get bored with it, man. Plus, it’s the way that I record. Dude,
about the last decade…I’ve got all these bands. So I set aside at least 4
months of the year to bash out ideas in the studio. You never know til the end
of the 4 months what is going to go where. “This one sounds good for RevCo.
This is for the new Ministry record. Y’know what? Jello is staying at my house
and wants to sing on this. Put it on the Lard shelf.” So at the end of the day
nothing gets done because you have three half finished albums (laughing). But
then the next year I go into the studio and pretty soon you piece albums
together. Over the next few years you should see at least another Lard,
Ministry and RevCo record. It depends where we decide they are gonna go.
Ministry’s From Beer To Eternity or this record are great examples where you don’t know
what the next song will bring. Some artists like Throwing Shade, TEARIST , Crowhurst or
the DJ Nosaj Thing really push themselves and expand from song to song. Others
just aren’t. It’s funny because with the internet now people could be pulling
from so many sources. But they are stuck in old paradigms.
AJ: It totally makes sense. A couple observations on that…not only on why
all bands sounds alike, but entire genres or within their own albums…songs
sound the same. It is interesting back in the 60’s with limited technology all
the bands sounded different. Now you have all this technology but all the
bands sound fuckin’ the same. All this information age and pop up ads crap
keeps giving you suggestions to keep you in your way of thinking, keep you
buying more shit. The same loop. So they only show you shit they think you’d
like. And most of the time they are right. We don’t run computers. They run
us. That is crux of the biscuit of what you said. An echo chamber in the
ethernet. You are spoonfed more of your tendency without branching to anything
different. That extends to art which starts coming out as predictable.
And then you have gatekeepers who want to keep out outside voices. Kate Leth
who writes the comics Hellcat and Vampirella, she rules and was just tweeting
today about that. How people are chased out of comics by gatekeepers for
having alternative voices. Music can be like that also. Or look at Mitt Romney
and how he was in such a bubble thinking he was going to trounce Obama because
he lived in his own media sources world and thus was only partially informed.
We need rebel alliances or alternate news sources.
AJ: Yeah, but sometimes the internet has made us strictly go to what we know.
My favorite thing is to immerse myself in the Right Wing shit and see what
makes them tick. We are being told how we tick by data programs. Romney…look
at the bubble of the Republican party. They have been in a bubble since
Reagan. Obstructionism politics rules our world now. If you don’t agree with
me then you suck. Of course they suck! You only know your own opinion! “Gay
marriage is baaaad. Abortion is murderrr!” This and that. If you don’t want to
hear any opposing point of view you will become a cartoon character of
I was listening to Twitch‘s “Just Like You” today and that song was ahead of
the curve. The lyrics “when one dictator is the same as the leader…just like
you!” (laughing). Thinking of Obama going to Cuba and people flipping shit. Or
Trump throwing people out of rallies. It’s like Walking Dead except we already
are the fucking zombies, man.
AJ: Exactly. That’s why those shows are so popular. Subconsciously people are
getting that we are steered towards becoming a zombie species. Do we really
think this zombie shit is gonna happen? My friend, it already has (laughing).
Or we think we want these “common interest” politicians like W. having a
little kid’s vocabulary or Paul Ryan and his stupid truck or whoever. Like
Trump is really so “common man” and not for ass fucking the economy to the
tune of white pride. Dumb ass crackers (laughing).
Let’s get into the record. How was it doing that Devo “Gates Of Steel” cover?
AJ: We went into the studio and couldn’t come up with any ideas. So we went
out and got out medical marijuana cards. I had just moved to L.A. and they
said no because I had a Texas license. I had to wait for my California
license. So, I went and saw the weed doctor. After doing half a record of
these aggro speed things the record got warm and groovy and unicorns, bees and
kittens. Groovy clouds in the sky. We just went with it because we didn’t know
it was an album. We didn’t know it was a band! We didn’t know anything! That’s
the beauty of this project! Trying to figure out what the fuck to do with it.
Some friends heard it and said ,”Man, that shit is dope.” Only towards the end
of the record we realized it was gonna be a band and not ideas and demos.
“Tragic Alert” is one of the fastest almost throwback to some of the edgiest
shit you have done. But then “I’m Invisible” is like this sleazy, David Lynch
in Vegas vibe. The new video must’ve been a blast to do. It’s one of the most entertaining videos I’ve seen all year.
AJ: Well, yeah. We were a little stoned for that one. Things happen.
Yeah, I was hoping you don’t really think you can fly over the city now by
flapping your arms (laughing).
AJ: (laughing) Maybe if I get some better weed.
Was it hard to get your weed card with your past history? I am trying to move
out there sooner than later if I can afford it.
AJ: Let me tell you…”I’m Invisible” came about…the day we did the Devo
song, me and Sammy both liked “Gates Of Steel” and had fun with it. I asked
around for the medical marijuana card. Being from Texas I didn’t have one
there. You’re lucky to find an abortion clinic let alone a weed doctor. So I
was like looking at myself in the mirror and asked a friend “What do you say?”
and my friends said ,”It’s nothing, man. Just go in and say you have anxiety
attacks and can’t sleep.”
I thought ,”Really? You have to see a doctor to get weed? This is stupid. And
if that is what everyone is saying and I copy it the doctor won’t give me a
weed card.” So my paranoid mind went and they asked me why I thought I needed
to smoke marijuana. So I thought I was clever and sat down with the doctor to
discuss my malady.
“Well doc, if I’m not high I am invisible. People can’t see me. But if I am
high they can see me and I can see them.” (laughing)
So he put you right into a mental hospital?
AJ: No. He shook his head and stamped the paper. “Get the fuck out’ve my
office and see the nurse down the hall”. I kept that experience and a place up
the street said if you are unsatisfied and they are late delivering,
DELIVERING…you get a free one!
(laughing) Checking the traffic reports on the 405 waiting to call when it
will take them forever.
AJ: They had their shit together and were never faltering. We had all this
weed we didn’t need from trying to get extra free weed! And we kept trying. It
got to the point we would do the same with Domino’s pizza, not that we’d eat
or need it. Just like they have the twenty minutes or less and it is free. And
the pot! We’d get on two phones. We never got any free pot but two free pizzas
by the end of the record (laughing).
Hey man, you could be that pizza guy! I hope you tipped them!
AJ: I did when they were on time! Pizza guys have their shit together less than pot guys. That’s my main quote for this whole album (laughing).So… we had fun because it was organic and awesome not even knowing we were making a record.
Yeah man. I relate. I have a solo project Walking Bombs just collaborating
with pals and amassing material. Let it add up. So much nicer than having to
deal with people’s feelings in a band and democratic bullshit or slackers. The
band breaks up anyway and it is like ,”What did I just do with the last seven
years of my fucking life?” Ughh. (laughing)
AJ: Exactly. But this wasn’t even planned. The SMM project was no external
influences and agendas because there was no preconceived concept. People just
heard it and made it come out. Nuclear Blast was one of the labels and liked
it. Well, fuckin’ pay me. So I got a check and thought it was a joke. But the
fuckin’ check cleared! I thought it was awesome. We were getting paid to do
demo takes! But they called and said ,”Not so fast, man. What’s the name of
what we just bought?” (laughing).